I was surprised and delighted by how much enjoyment I got out of this book. I love fairy tale stories and re-tellings of all stripes but to find one lI was surprised and delighted by how much enjoyment I got out of this book. I love fairy tale stories and re-tellings of all stripes but to find one like this was magical indeed and it was such a joy to read. Entwined is a re-telling of the fairy tale The Twelve Dancing Princesses set in a Victorian era kingdom. There is a castle and balls, there are beautiful dresses and magic, and of course there is lots and lots of dancing. Underneath it all there lurks a danger that threatens to destroy everything.
The eldest princess Azaela has eleven younger sisters each named after a flower alphabetically, Bramble, Clover and so on. This ends up being a wonderful way to have several very different sisters and also an easy way for the reader to keep track of just which sister is being spoken of by the letter her name starts with. The author juggles a cast of twelve princesses beautifully and you never get bored with them. Their mother the Queen was a beautiful dancer and taught each of them how to do all sorts of different dances so that the princesses equate the love of their mother with the joy of dance. When the queen dies in childbirth with the youngest princess, Lily, things take a dark turn in the castle. The King is devastated and puts the castle into mourning, closing up the windows, dressing the family in black, and absolutely forbidding dancing. The princesses grieve the death of their mother, and the sudden emotional distance of their father, and want to celebrate and remember her through dance, but how can they when they have been forbidden?
What follows is a wonderful story featuring a magic castle, twelve princesses, unwanted suitors, a mystery to be solved, and a sinister evil that threatens everything the princesses love. Azaela was such a strong heroine, she took such fantastic charge in the wake of her mother’s death in caring for her younger sisters as best she could. Her sisters were a joy to read about as well from stubborn cranky Bramble, to shy sweet Clover, to even little Lily taking her first steps in the dance. The suitors who attempt to solve the mystery were also a joy to read about because, let’s face it, there was some real comedy gold to be had right there. A single princess they could deal with, but twelve?
This was a wonderful book and I recommend it to any one that takes joy in reading fairy tales, especially rewritten ones. The magic the story wove around me made the pages fly past and for a long book (nearly 500 pages!) it almost seemed too short by the time I was done. This story of several strong young women who manage to keep their family together through increasing odds was a great joy to read. I highly recommend it.
I realized going into this that The World Above is intended to be a light, fluffy read for young teens. The entire Once Upon A Time series is all madeI realized going into this that The World Above is intended to be a light, fluffy read for young teens. The entire Once Upon A Time series is all made up of fairy tale books retold in a literary manner within a relatively sanitary and safe fairy tale world. Even knowing all this I still took issue with the book because, well, it’s boring.
In The World Above Jack has a twin sister who is the main character of the book. All of the Once Upon A Time books have a female protagonist. Following things from her point of view proves… dull. Jack leaves on the adventure while Gen, the sensible one, stays at home. Weeks pass where Jack climbs a beanstalk, meets a giant and his beautiful normal sized sister, discovers the charged political environment of a different magical world, and brings back a magical goose and sack. But we are not following Jack, we are following Gen. So while all of that is going on “off camera” we are told in great detail about Gen’s adventures cooking, cleaning, sewing, gardening, and making lists for next years harvest. This proves to contain all of the adventure and excitement one expects from watching paint dry.
But wait, it gets worse. When Jack leaves a second time to attempt to gain the harp from the evil king who killed Jack and Gen's father he doesn't return. Gen must go on an adventure herself. She climbs her own beanstalk and immediately meets the giant's beautiful sister. Her brother the giant left with Jack to get the harp and they have both been missing for weeks. So the girls set off together on an adventure and things risk becoming exciting. Thankfully we dodge this bullet as the girls are captured by, wait for it, Robin and his band of merry men.
Well, it's not really Robin, but its an excellent attempt to mash up the fairy tale and the legend. It's actually Robert the evil king's son who has changed his name to Robin because no one will suspect he is the king's son with a different name, amirite? He then ran away to hide in the woods and now steals money from the rich to give to the poor. He also, by the way, takes over Gen's little adventure and runs things from here on out. The book makes painfully careful attempts to not be sexist in either word or thought but the actions scream it at every turn.
I won't spoil the ending but it actually does manage to get even worse from here. The ending itself manages to make the entire lead up to it seem like over reaction and needless melodrama, pain, and suffering. It's really, really bad. Even the epilogue after it that attempts to wrap up the plot holes still manages to miss a few.
That being said, If I was in elementary school, or maybe even middle school, this book would have rocked my world. For a teen book it really seems to me to be more written at that level. For younger, reluctant readers who are into fairy tales this series will probably work out well. For me though there is a difference between keeping it light and safe for the helicopter parents out there and boring the kid out of their mind with a story too shy and careful to liven up the pages....more
In this, very loose, retelling of Snow White Gail Carson Levine spins a tale set in the world of Ella Enchanted about a young girl with an amazing voiIn this, very loose, retelling of Snow White Gail Carson Levine spins a tale set in the world of Ella Enchanted about a young girl with an amazing voice, and unamazing looks. Ava was abandoned at an inn when she was just a baby. The innkeeper took her and raised her as his own and she grew into an amazing singer but had to put up with people’s stares, slurs and abuse concerning her appearance which was not inline with what the kingdom thought of as beauty. She is often described as being ugly but when a more frank description is given their main complaints are that she is large, both tall and broad, and that her coloring is odd, having pale skin, dark hair and red lips.
Her voice overpowers all of that though and she is ultimately considered one of the best singers in the kingdom, and that matters very much in Ayortha the kingdom of singers, where people sing all day, every day. Singing is an intrinsic part of their culture, they have Sings and singing contests, and songs for every occasion. When, by chance, she is taken by a duchess to the King's wedding and the Queen overhears her singing she covets the voice for herself. Queen Ivi discovers that Ava can not just sing but can also use mimicry to mimic other people's voices and can throw her voice without moving her lips, a talent Ava calls illusing. Ivi threatens Ava's family unless the commoner uses her voice to replace the Queen's during major singing events so that, combined with the Queen's otherworldy beauty, the Queen could capture the hearts of her people.
When the King is injured the Queen comes into power and uses her new influence to create a dictatorship with Ava as the unwilling tool to help it come about. Things turn dire for the kingdom and ultimately Ava has a lot to learn as she chooses between the beauty she craves and the kingdom she loves.
I loved this book as I thought it had a lot of powerful messages about looks in a thin obsessed and beauty obsessed society. I loved how this heroine was not above saving herself when need be and also accepted help from others when she needed it, not too far one way or the other. I also liked having a prince that looks beyond skin deep when he falls in love. Highly recommended young adult novel that takes a fairy tale and spins it into something even a modern day teen can relate to without ever leaving its magical kingdom....more
In The Return of the Light Carolyn McVickar Edwards assembles twelve legends, folktales and fairy tales told about the “return of light” that occurs aIn The Return of the Light Carolyn McVickar Edwards assembles twelve legends, folktales and fairy tales told about the “return of light” that occurs at the winter solstice. I wanted to know more about the roots of the older traditions surrounding the Winter Solstice before it was taken over by the Church. I didn’t really find that, but I did find several different takes from around the world on just what happens during the solstice, the shortest day of the year, and their explanations for why the sun goes away, and more importantly why it comes back after.
The book is divided into three parts, each part containing four stories of a particular way in which the sun is lost at the solstice: the first through theft, the second through surrender and the third by grace. Each part is preceded with a short discussion about the method of reacquiring the sun, and each story is additionally given an introduction explaining the society it came from and where the story originated.
I thought that the introductions to the book and the sections in particular were by turns overly analytical, and then bizarrely whimsical. They could have perhaps been written in a more user friendly way. I am used to reading sociological and historical texts with a lot of technical terms in them and even I found myself lost and re-reading passages trying to get the gist of the great deal of knowledge the author attempted to cram into very little space. This also resulted in a bit of reader's whiplash when you switched to reading the story.
The stories were simplified and written in a very easy to understand and casual manner, particularly the dialogue which was written in a very believable modern day cadence and made the stories easy to read aloud and easy for listeners of any age to relate to. With the skill exhibited here, the stories were very much the book's strong point. I wish the introductions were similarly written, it would have made for a powerful book.
The ending includes several songs and games to be done on the winter solstice. To me these seemed like very much an after thought. The publisher might have insisted they add them, or an editor tacked them on. They were not well thought out, they were sometimes cheesy, even for families with children, and didn't add anything to the book at all.
The stories though were well written, and powerful, reminders of the other cultures that make up this world and of thee people of the past and their varying reactions to the, probably at that time terrifying, sight of the sun showing up less and less each day. These stories explained for them what was happening and reassured them that the sun would come back and light would return once again....more
Would you risk everything for a fairy tale? Cassie was a young girl growing up in an Arctic research station. Her grandmother used to tell her storiesWould you risk everything for a fairy tale? Cassie was a young girl growing up in an Arctic research station. Her grandmother used to tell her stories about Cassie’s mother, the daughter of the North Wind. The story went like this:
When the North Wind wanted a daughter he asked the Polar Bear King to kidnap for him a child. In return the North Wind promised his new daughter in marriage to the Polar Bear King. Before she came of age she met a human man and fell in love with him. When the Polar Bear King came to claim her it was to find her heart already belonged to another. The daughter of the North Wind asked him to hide her and her human love from her father and in return she would give him their first born daughter as a wife. The Polar Bear King hid them in snow and ice but it wasn’t enough. The North Wind found her when the cries from her new born was heard by one of his brothers. He came and whisked her away to a Troll Castle and she was never seen again.
Now that Cassie is grown up she realizes that her grandmother’s story was just a nice way of telling her that her mother was dead. She lives in the real world now, working at her father’s Arctic research station. She is a very literal minded aspiring scientist and is very passionate about her work tagging and tracking polar bears as part of her father’s research. On the night of her eighteenth birthday she stumbles across the largest polar bear she has ever seen. Her attempts to tag it come to naught as the bear actually seems to dissolve into a wall of ice. She breaks protocol and attempts to track the bear for hours only to return to the station defeated. When she tells her father of meeting the bear he freaks out, but not for the reasons she expects. All of a sudden he wants to send her to Anchorage. Now. Before it’s too late. It turns out her father and grandmother actually believe the fairy tale she was told in childhood is true and that the Polar Bear King has come to claim her as his bride. Thinking her family has gone insane she sneaks out to try and tag the bear again to prove it is just a bear once and for all, only to have him appear before her, and start to speak…
What follows is a modern day re-telling of the fairy tale "East of the Sun and West of the Moon". Seeing the fairy tale through the eyes of a scientist was very interesting at the beginning. Her attempts to explain away this talking bear and her family's strange actions all come across as very realistic. As she ends up getting pulled into the fairy tale and making deals with these, to her mind imaginary, beings and enters into this completely different world she changes with it. The uniqueness of having a scientist be the protagonist in the fairy tale is gone by the final third of the book. She is just like any other young woman by the end, just herself.
I was at once disturbed by the premise of the fairy tale and surprised at how well it was handled. This is a woman raised in a western society who is now faced with an arranged marriage made before her birth. It's a lot to take in even aside from the fact that it's to a talking bear. When they strike a deal, her marrying him in exchange for him freeing her mother, they do become husband and wife and he whisks her away to his home. Despite the fact that they are now married he still treats her with respect and doesn't demand anything. He even honors her choice to go if she wishes, as long as she just gives him enough of a chance to show her the life she would have if she stayed. I don't want to spoiler too much, but let's just say for an arranged marriage the bear is determined to win his bride through courtship and not through force, and not at all if she doesn't want to in the first place. Still a little freaked out by the age difference (old enough to be the king while her mother was an infant?) but other than that tastefully well done.
If you know this fairy tale, or any of the many similar ones that are often told (this is kind of like a beauty and the beast of the north pole) then you know every twist and turn in advance. There are still some surprises though. Having a scientist for a wife with access to modern day technology turns out to be an unseen perk. The ending though, like I said, leave a woman stripped of all of that as her quest leaves her with little to get through but her wits, stubborn will, and sheer determination. Unfortunately these sometimes result in more harm than good and at one point I was just about ready to string her up for her thoughtless stubbornness.
This book also brings up an interesting theory on the point at which life truly begins, it has a mythology surrounding the concept of that being at birth. Meanwhile the actions throughout the book imply communication and validation of life before that. It definitely provides a lot for a teen to think about on both sides of the argument with subjects such as abortion, unwanted children, stillborns, a mother's acceptance, a child's life being valued over that of the mother's, and, of course, childbirth. These are brought up, and generally placed in an ambiguous light. It is liberal leaning, very much so, but in a lot of ways this book is meant to get kids talking about these subjects more than sway them one way or the other.
For younger kids, perhaps steer clear due to the subject matter. For older ones, especially ones that enjoy rewritten fairy tales, I say you should give this book a whirl. I definitely enjoyed this unique modern day take on an old fairy tale...more
The genre of fairy tales has been tamed over the years to the point where they are just considered innocent stories for children and nothing more. JanThe genre of fairy tales has been tamed over the years to the point where they are just considered innocent stories for children and nothing more. Jane Yolen and her daughter Heidi Stemple bring back those fairy tales and look at the originals and variants from all over the world that show that these stories are many things, but they are not for small children. In Mirror, Mirror mother and daughter take a look at the fairy tales that shaped the past of motherhood and the relationships between mothers and daughters and discuss them in light of modern day motherhood and mother/daughter relationships. They discuss everything from abuse to abandonment, coming of age to marriage, rage and love, sex and death. A great book for mothers and daughters to read together to look at their relationships through the “mirror” of the past and to get women talking about each other, their relationship and themselves.
This book is made up of a selection of fairy tales under a certain theme (fiction), followed by a discussion between mother and daughter about the implications of the stories both in the past and today (non-fiction). The later ended up being the real meat of the book, even if the fiction made up the greater amount of pages.
The stories spanned everything from discussions of sex in fairy tales whether on the part of the mother, the daughter, or even once the grandmother, to the different types of girls (and daughters) whether good or bad, caring or abandoning. It also covered the different roles of the mother, whether caring or despising, envious or prideful of their daughters, whether they were biological, step, in-law or foster mother. They discussed all of the main heroines of women's fairy tales and the ways we view ourselves through them whether mother or daughter: Cinderella, Snow White, Persephone, Rapunzel. And, of course, they discussed all of the mixed messages fairy tales can bring.
It was very interesting reading about the tales through the viewpoint of this particular mother and daughter: Jane Yolen gave the view point of the Baby Boomer generation, while Heidi Stemple brought in Generation X. They both talked of their mothers - whether biological, in-law or foster - and discussed their experiences raising daughters, Heidi is currently raising a teenage foster daughter, plus a toddler biological one. They talked about the fairy tales in relation to their own lives and each others, holding up these mirrors to compare and to discuss all the different aspects of womanhood and motherhood. They used the tales as a vehicle to open a dialogue on some typically tough topics of discussion - whether those be premarital sex, old age and death, partner abuse (whether physical or emotional), drugs and growing up in an ever changing America for women....more
This lovely book, Black Heart, Ivory Bones, is a collection of fantasy and horror tales edited by my two favorite ladies of their respective genres ElThis lovely book, Black Heart, Ivory Bones, is a collection of fantasy and horror tales edited by my two favorite ladies of their respective genres Ellen Datlow (horror) and Terri Windling (fantasy). This is one book in a series of six volumes of, as they call it, reconsidered fairy tales. These fairy tales are rewritten to change the focus of the originals or perhaps just to sharpen the point of them to showcase the sinister, the sensual, and the sometimes sadistic roots of our childhood fairy tales.
Some of my favorites were "Rapunzel", "Big Hair", "The King with Three Daughters", "And Still She Sleeps", "Goldilocks Tells All", "The Red Boots", "You, Little Match Girl", "The Cats of San Martino" and "The Golem". And, yes, one of those ("You, Little Match Girl") was by the infamous Joyce Carol Oates, whose work I normally find too harsh to stomach, this particular piece though was one of the most profoundly powerful in the collection. The other piece that was the best in my opinion was "And Still She Sleeps" which brings up the very valid point that if true love's kiss is supposed to wake someone, and the only people available to kiss them were people that had not known them to love them in life, how are they ever to be kissed awake? True love is not determined on beauty alone.
My husband does not enjoy re-written fairy tales so I thought I would bring up his complaint since I don't have any of my own to voice. He says that authors that write these sorts of stories just seem to take the characters in them and drop everything else to make them act out something completely different. I don't completely agree with him because, though some stories do that, such as Big Hair, at the same time they do keep to the spirit of what the original story was trying to say, even if in a more modern, dark or surreal way.
If you enjoy reconsidered fairy tales, short stories of a more modern bent that take your old fairy tales and give them new and interesting life, then I would say definitely give this book a whirl. You won't be disappointed.
Favorite Quote: "It's my latest," Goldy concluded, "my best, and the one which the New York Times recently described as 'thrilling, sad, heartbreaking' and 'packs a huge wallop.' Entitled The Goldilocks Syndrome, it's currently available in the lobby at a today-only discount of $21.95. And if you act now, I'll sign and date this sucker at no extra charge." --Goldilocks Tells All...more
The byline of this book is Stories of Fire and Ice, so all of the stories contained these two elements in one way or another. Several of them read verThe byline of this book is Stories of Fire and Ice, so all of the stories contained these two elements in one way or another. Several of them read very much like fairy tales in their representations of one or the other of the elements and made for very pleasant and lyrical reading. "A Lamia in the Cevennes" was very artistic, fantastical and eerie while "Jael" managed to appear non-fantastical until the very end which gave you shivers.
My favorite in the collection would have to be "Cold" though. The story of the ice princess and the desert prince was very touching and extremely well written, the prose in this story alone made reading the book very much worth it. I even read that particular piece aloud to my husband who also enjoyed it very much.
If you are a fan of A.S. Byatt then you will love this book, if you are just a fan of re-written fairy tales you will also love this book and should become a fan of this amazing author. The only reason it lost a star is the first story, "Crocodile Tears" - while powerful, poetic and meaningful in its own way - was a story I found hard to get into and was a very long short story to start the book off on. I guess that particular piece just hit a little too close to home for me....more
Happily never after. Or so it seems at first. Just Ella is a rewritten take on the famous fairy tale Cinderella. Only in this story Ella takes herselfHappily never after. Or so it seems at first. Just Ella is a rewritten take on the famous fairy tale Cinderella. Only in this story Ella takes herself to the ball, evading a wicked stepmother and sweeping Prince Charming off his feet without any outside help of the magical or furry little creature kind. Once she gets everything she has ever dreamed of, through hard work, cunning and ingenuity it is just to discover that she is just another naive princess after all. The fairy tale she’s worked so hard to achieve is not what it’s cracked up to be.
Just Ella is a great fairy tale showing a heroine who lives the adventure of a prince using quick thinking, problem solving, sly tricks, bravery and sheer nerve to get out of a series of binds in the quest for her happily ever after. Never once does she settle, even when it becomes dangerous to not do so.
I even thought the bit of metaing thrown in was well done, where she actually talks about her situation and the misapprehension everyone is under that she only was able to get there with outside help. She doesn't understand why people would not only think that, no matter how improbable a fairy godmother or talking creatures might be, but that they would prefer it to the reality of an independent female able to achieve her dreams all by herself. This novel tells the more probable story of a female that does just that.
Favorite Quote: "And yet, I felt a surge of exhilaration just thinking about that night. Not just because I'd met the prince and fallen in love and started on my course toward happiness ever after, but because I'd made something happen. I'd done something everybody had told me I couldn't. I'd changed my life all by myself. Having a fairy godmother would have ruined everything." -Ella...more